A Butterfly Garden

butterfly-girl-jpg.jpgThe Centerpiece of the Butterfly Garden
in the Springfield Botanical Gardens is this whimsical bronze Butterfly Girl created by sculptor James Hall. She overlooks colorful beds of plants that are either food for caterpillars or nectar sources to feed them when they become Missouri's native butterflies.
     Designed in 2004 by Dr. Pam Trewatha, Missouri State University horticulture professor, the Garden today is cared for by Peter Longley, novelist, master gardener, and Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center horticultural interpreter.
      Peter says the Garden's goal is to provide color through the garden season and that it's probably at its very best in July and August, when our butterflies are most plentiful.
     The Butterfly Garden is a few yards east of the Bill Roston Butterfly House, where visitors can see and learn all about Missouri's native butterflies. The Garden also has a shaded arbor where visitors can relax and enjoy a panoramic view of the Butterfly, Lily, Iris, Daylily, and Ornamental Grass gardens.
     Springfield Botanical Gardens are free to all and located at 2400 S. Scenic in Springfield, Missouri.

A Charming Early Visitor


One of the very first visitors to the Butterfly Garden after its creation in 2004 was this marvelous Hummingbird Moth, drawn by the fruity nectar of the Butterfly Bush.

Flowering Quince

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles sp.) are vividly colorful in very early spring, with flowers ranging from white to pink to the brilliant red-orange seen here, and deep scarlet. Its leaves open bronze-red then turn to green before dropping in fall
. It has long, spiny stems and can grow to 10 feet tall just as wide, but size can be controlled with pruning at any time.

Flowering Quince Close Up


The Flowering Quince flower close up.
The blossoming branches can be cut and used in indoor arrangements. The fruit is fragrant, resembles very small apples, and can be made into jelly.

Peter in the Garden

His official title may be horticultural interpreter, and he may be a novelist, but Peter Longley's efforts in the Butterfly Garden are hardly limited to the intellectual. With very little help, Peter personally does a great deal of the real down-to-earth, from-the-ground-up work required to keep the Garden, its several beds, and nearly 100 plants in top condition. It's hard work, he says, but gratifying.


Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) is a striking shrub with long, graceful, arching canes and pink-white flowers in early summer that attract birds and butterflies. It grows 5-8 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide and does well in full sun to half-shade. An excellent accent plant that tolerates drought well. This plant is mislabeled 'Diabolo' Ninebark, but is most likely the ninebark native to Missouri, as 'Diabolo' has deep reddish-purple leaves, as you can see below.

'Diabolo' Ninebark


'Diabolo' Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo') stands out beautifully in the garden or landscape by virtue of its beautiful burgundy foliage, a perfect ground for its small white flowers from May-June. It does well in full to partial sun and can grow rather quickly to 10 feet tall with an 8-foot spread. It can also be pruned to any size to fit nicely in virtually any area.

'Red Cardinal' Weigela

'Red Cardinal' Weigela (Weigela florida 'Red Cardinal') bears an enormous profusion of vivid crimson, trumpet-like flowers in early spring, making it a real eyecatcher in the garden. Thriving in full to partial shade, It grows to 6 feet or more in height with a similar spread and gracefully arching branches. Bonus: Like all weigelas, it's terrifically attractive to hummingbirds.

Chaste Tree

a-moment-jpg.jpgPeter pauses to reflect on the garden's Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus), an  intriguing shrub that can reach 15 feet tall with a similar spread. A dramatic presence in any garden, its foliage is a striking dark green and shaped rather like a hand several "fingers." In summer it bears a great profusion of tall, lovely, upright lavender flower heads. The flowers are followed by small, dark-purple berries that can be dried, ground, and used as a spice.

The Chaste Tree Up Close

A closer look at the Chaste Tree.
Why the name "Chaste Tree"? In the 6th Century consumption of the berries was said to enable monks to fulfill their vows of chastity. Other common names for this remarkable tree include Vitex, Chasteberry, Abraham's Balm, Indian Spice, and Monk's Pepper.

Variegated Weigela

Variegated Weigela (Weigela florida 'Variegata') is a gorgeous shrub with beautiful flowers and variegated foliage. From late spring into autumn it bears a profusion of lovely pink flowers on beautifully arching stems and ifs leaves are green with a creamy white edge. In full sun to partial shade it can reach 8 feet tall with a 5-foot spread. As you can see, it's virtually spectacular in the Ozarks.

A Magnificent Sunflower


At first we thought this magnificent plant had to be a Rudbeckia, many of which are called Black-Eyed Susan or Brown-Eyed Susan, then Peter told us it's actually a Helianthus, or Sunflower. We think now it's most likely 'Lemon Queen' Sunflower (Helianthus laetiflorus 'Lemon Queen'), which grows to 7 feet tall by 3-4 feet wide, is perennial, and blooms spectacularly from midsummer into October.

Blue Perennial Salvia

Blue Perennial Salvia (Salvia x superba 'Blue Queen') features rich deep-blue-purple flower spikes so dense that they can create a literal wall of garden color. The plants are compact, grow 12-15 inches tall and 15 inches wide, and bloom in early summer and then again before frost. Considered one of the best of the garden sages, it's terrifically attractive to butterflies.

'Superbells Red' Calilbrachoa
Closely related to petunias but with smaller flowers and a much neater habit, Calibrachoa varieties are extremely vigorous and filled with blooms from spring through summer. With fertile, well-drained soil, and plenty of sun they grow 7 inches high with a 6-20-inch spread. Varieties come with blue, pink, coral pink, and white flowers and are superb in the garden or in containers.

'Lanai Blue' Verbena
Butterflies love verbenas, and verbenas are especially easy to grow in the Ozarks. This variety is 'Lanai Blue'. It grows 8-12 inches tall, spreads to 3 feet wide, likes full sun and well drained soil, and blooms from May until frost. It's excellent in the garden or in containers.

White Trailing Lantana
An abundance of pristine white flowers and a trailing habit make White Trailing Lantana extremely popular as a ground cover, in hanging baskets, and as a cascading plant in raised beds and over retaining walls. It grows 8-12 inches tall and 3-6 feet wide, loves full sun, and is heat tolerant. An annual in cold climates, it may carry over in milder winters in the Ozarks.

lantana.jpgThe common Lantana (Lantana camara) is an extremely colorful flowering shrub whose flower clusters may be a mix of red, yellow, orange, and white florets. Native to South America, it's related to verbena and sometimes called Shrub Verbena. Its many colorful hybrids and cultivars all attract butterflies, and bees, and birds love to eat the berries. The common Lantana grows as tall as 4-6 feet and 4 feet wide. It can be pruned for control. It is not hardy in the Ozarks. 

It's Hard Work, But...


Peter says keeping up the Butterfly Garden is hard work but gratifying. His efforts certainly are appreciated by the Garden's many visitors who think it not only beautiful but a tremendous resource for their own gardening at home.

Saving a Bed
saving-a-bed-jpg.jpgWhen the Lantana filling one garden bed were nearly wiped out by a mold, Peter quickly transplanted the healthy plants to another bed, hoping to save them, then installed a completely new--and highly attractive--planting in the affected bed. The new plants include coleus, sage, sweet potato vine, petunias, purple fountain grass, and more. We think this is a terrific example for home gardeners of how to knock garden adversity right out of the box and find that happier ending.

'Autumn Joy' Sedum
'Autumn Joy' Sedum (Sedum 'Autumn Joy' or Hylotelephium 'Autumn Joy') is wildly attractive to butterflies, bees, pollinating wasps, and birds. A superb perennial for borders or rock gardens, it grows to 18-24 inches tall and as wide and is dense with salmon pink blooms in September. Also, being drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, it's a winner in every way.

Escapade Red Verbena

It's only just beginning here, but the recently introduced Escapade Red Verbena (Verbena sp.) is a winner for its exceptional profusion of brilliant red flowers. It grows into a mound 6-10 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide. It prefers full sun but also does well in partial shade, and will take dry soil. As you might guess, it's also perfect for hanging baskets. 

Dwarf Phlox
Dwarf Phlox make it possible for gardeners to have a touch of the old-fashioned feel of beautiful phlox flowers where limited space would rule out planting larger varieties. We suspect this prize, here protected from rabbits, is 'Light Pink Flame' (Phlox condensata 'Light Pink Flame'), which grows to 16 inches tall with a 12-14 inch spread. Dwarf Phlox bloom earlier and for a longer time than most garden phlox and if deadheaded often will rebloom.

We can't say enough good about this plant. Many gardeners call it Medallion Plant, Butter Daisy, or Star Daisy, but most know it as Melampodium from the species name Melampodium paludosum. No annual we know blooms more profusely, its small star-shaped flowers covering the plant thickly from early spring to fall. It grows to 24 inches high in a wonderfully attractive, neat, compact mound. Make no mistake. This plant is a winner all the way.

Great Spangled Fritillary

The Great Spangled Fritillary, certainly one of the Garden's most beautiful visitors, sips nectar from a Butterfly Bush. This butterfly is common in many states and has been expanding its range. Its caterpillar feeds on our native wild violets, so before you pull that weed....

Butterfly Weed
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a vividly colorful perennial shrub native to several states in the U.S., including Missouri, where its
bright orange blossoms brighten our highways, fields, and glades and are finding increasing favor in our home gardens. The plant can be transplanted or grown from seed and with well-drained soil and lots of sun will reach 1-3 feet tall and about a foot or so wide.

Butterfly Weed Up Close

A closer look at the Butterfly Weed.
This remarkable native plant stands out as the host plant for the caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly. As you can see, it's attractive not only to butterflies, but to bees, bumble and otherwise.

Joe Pye Weed
joe-pye-weed-jpg.jpgJoe Pye Weed is a perennial shrub that towers to 12 feet tall in the garden with large clusters of unique dusky-pinkish flower. (As its stems are hollow, taller plants may need staking.) Wildly attractive to butterflies, it's named for Native American herbalist Joe Pye, who used it to cure fevers. Of the several Eupatorium species, this one happens is Eupatorium purpureum.

Joe Pye Weed Up Close

A closer view of Joe Pye Weed reveals the unique composition and coloration of its flower heads.

Threadleaf Blue Star
threadleaf-blue-star-jpg.jpgThreadleaf Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii), also known as Arkansas Blue Star, is a standout for its very fine, delicate foliage and profusion of tiny light blue flowers. This native plant grows to 3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide and blooms in May and June. It likes sun or part shade and is drought tolerant. A Big Bonus: The foliage turns a spectacular golden yellow in the fall. Note: The Perennial Plant Association chose it as the 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year.

'Blue Fortune' Agastache
blue-fortune-agastache.jpg'Blue Fortune' Agastache (Agastache hybrida 'Blue Fortune') is winning gardeners for its vigor and great profusion of soft, powdery-blue, fragrant flowers. This marvelous plant blooms from July through October, grows to 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide, and is non-invasive and deer-resistant, it works beautifully in beds, borders, or backgrounds and attracts a great many butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and hummingbird moths. Common names include Anise Hyssop, Blue Fortune Hyssop, and Hummingbird Mint.

Sunset Hyssop
sunset-hyssop-jpg.jpgSunset Hyssop (Agastache ruprestis) is, to put it simply, a wonderful plant. Native to mountain slopes in Arizona and New Mexico, it does wonderfully well in Ozarks gardens. The main attraction, of course, is the absolutely unique sunset-like coloration of its flower spikes, which normally appear in July and August and, if the plant is cut back, again in the fall. A low-maintenance woody perennial in the mint family, it likes full sun to part shade and will grow to 2 feet tall and 1 1/2 feet wide. The somewhat lacy leaves are attractive and have an engaging scent often described as a blend of mint, licorice, and root beer. Common names include Anise Hyssop, Rock Anise Hyssop, and Licorice Hyssop.

Pentas (Pentas lanceolata) is a marvelous plant that features clusters of star-shaped flowers and rich green foliage. Hybrids come in lavender, pale pink, deep pink, and red. The plants can grow to 24-30" high and 12-16" wide and are terrifically attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and, obviously from the chicken wire, rabbits. Common names for the species include Egyptian Star, Star Flower, and Star Cluster.

Butterfly in Flight

A beautiful Spicebush Swallowtail about to land on one of its own favorite sources of nectar, the Pentas plant.

Purple Butterfly Bush
The plants commonly known as Butterfly Bush are vigorous shrubs of the Buddleia species (sometimes Buddleja). These highly popular plants feature slender, lance-like gray-green leaves and lovely spikes of fragrant flowers that are wildly attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. They grow quickly, the largest reaching 15 feet tall, and can be invasive unless controlled. Most are evergreen except in very severe winters and all are drought-tolerant. This beautiful specimen is most likely 'Black Knight,' an older variety that is also the darkest purple available. It grows to 6 ft. tall with a similar spread.

A White Butterfly Bush

This beautiful Butterfly Bush is 'White Profusion' (Buddleia davidii 'White Profusion'). Lovely on its own, this variety is also famed for providing superb contrast in the garden, especially when growing next to the 'Black Knight' variety shown above. 'White Profusion' grows rapidly to 7 feet tall by 5 feet wide. It needs at least 6 or more hours of direct sun per day.

'Acoma' Crape Myrtle

The 'Acoma' Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x faueri 'Acoma') is distinctive among crape myrtles for its low-growing, almost-weeping habit and unusually large, drooping clusters of pure white flowers. Considered a semi-dwarf plant, it can grow to 7 feet in height. Deciduous, its peeling bark is attractive in winter, making a great addition year-round in the garden or landscape.

'Pink Velour' Crape Myrtle
'Pink Velour' Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica 'Pink Velour'), a semi-dwarf shrub most often referred to as an ornamental tree, is greatly admired for its exceptionally vivid flower color. From late June through August it can be completely covered with blossoms. In addition its leaves are at first burgundy but gradually turn green, then in autumn take on a lovely yellow-orange. Given rich soil and full sun, it will grow to 10 feet tall and as wide.

'Royalty' Crape Myrtle

The 'Royalty' Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica 'Royalty') seems the essence of elegance with its abundance of lacey, vibrant, royal purple flowers from late spring until frost. It can grow to 15 feet and as wide. The leaves turn orange, then red in fall and the peeling bark also provides winter interest.

Althea 'Tricolor Double'
Althea 'Tricolor Double' (Hibiscus syriacus 'Tricolor Double') is an absolute wonder. Amazingly, in late summer it produces pink, purple, and white double blossoms simultaneously on the same plant. Its bright green serrated foliage is also attractive. Easy to grow, it tolerates a wide range of soil and moisture conditions and grows as tall as 10 feet with a 4-foot spread. Give it full sun for the best bloom.

Yellow Coneflower
This beautiful Yellow Coneflower is most likely the Ozarks native Echinacea paradoxa, a cheery plant that grows 2-3 feet tall and produces sprays of bright, fragrant flowers from June through August. It naturalizes easily and with deadheading will produce a great many flowers. Note: Among its other charms, the Yellow Coneflower also attracts goldfinches, who perch on or near the blackened cones to feed on the seeds.

'Little Magnus' Coneflower


The 'Little Magnus' Coneflower
is a beautiful dwarf coneflower hybrid, growing to only about 24 inches tall and as wide. Its size and compact habit make it perfect for tucking in among other perennials, and especially in naturalized areas. The flowers, however, are not small at all, measuring at least 3 inches wide. As with all coneflowers, 'Little Magnus' attracts butterflies and bees and feeds the birds with its seeds.

Blue Anise Sage
blue-anise-sage-jpg.jpgWhen it comes to "true blue" flowers, Blue Anise Sage (Salvia guarantica) is for us the winner, as no plant we know has flowers so intensely blue.If given full sun it can reach 5 feet tall and as wide. With much shade, though, it can turn gangly. Native to South America, the plant likely should be treated as an annual in the Ozarks. Hybrids are available with flowers in various shades of blue, violet, and purple. Common names include Anise-Scented Sage, Brazilian Sage, Brazilian Blue Sage, Giant Blue Sage, Hummingbird Sage, and Sapphire Sage.

'Lady Wilson' Goat's Rue
'Lady Wilson' Goat's Rue (Galega x harlandii 'Lady Wilson') is a vigorous, bushy, upright perennial that in summer blooms profusely, producing many, many pea-like pale lavender and white flower spikes. The long pinnate leaves (opposite each other on the stem) provide an attractive lacy texture as well. Given moist soil and full sun to partial shade, the plant can grow to 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, making it ideal for the back of the border. Note: When tall, it may require staking, and it also reseeds freely.

Lamb's Ear Betony
Named for its fuzzy leaves, Lamb's Ear Betony (Stachys byzantina) is a felicitous addition to any garden. Growing in a neat, attractive mound, in summer it bears a great many lovely purple-pink flower clusters on relatively tall, leafless scapes. Preferring full sun and well-drained soil, it can grow to 18 inches tall and as wide. Common names include Lamb's Ears, Bunnies' Ears, Woolly Betony, Woundwort.

Blue False Indigo
Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis) is an excellent low-maintenance upright perennial that features indigo-color flower spikes in May and June. It likes full sun to part shade and can grow to 4 feet tall and as wide. The common name comes from its use as a substitute for the true indigo plan native to the West Indies. Bonus: The seedpods turn black when ripe to add visual interest. Because the seeds rattle around inside, the pods were once used by children as rattles.

heliotrope-jpg.jpgHeliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) is an old-fashioned garden favorite with deep purple flower clusters, richly textured deep-green foliage, and an intense fragrance that inspired its common name, Cherry Pie Plant. The word "Heliotrope" means the flowers follow the sun and also came to designate the familiar color. Perennial only in mild climates, it's an annual in the Ozarks and blooms from midsummer into fall. It prefers full sun and rich soil and does best if fertilized regularly. Normally it reaches 18 inches tall and as wide, but some hybrids can reach 3 feet. 

'Black and Blue' Sage
'Black and Blue' Sage (Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue') is showing up in more and more gardens and landscapes these days as it catches the fancy of just about everyone who sees it. A most striking member of the sage family, it grows quickly to 3 feet tall in a wide clump, blooms from summer through fall, and is a wonderful contrast with brighter-colored flowers. An annual in the Ozarks, it needs full sun and regular watering.

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